Macomb County Coaches Hall of Fame welcomes familiar UCS faces

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | C&G Newspapers | Published July 13, 2022


SHELBY TOWNSHIP/UTICA/STERLING HEIGHTS — As the Macomb County Coaches Hall of Fame welcomed 19 new inductees on May 25 during a celebratory event at the Mirage in Clinton Township, Utica Community Schools was well represented with six inductees to its name.


Butch Wagner

Wagner, who coached high school sports for 27 years, began coaching in 1970 at Avondale High School as the varsity baseball and junior varsity football coach.

In 1972, he moved to Utica Ford II, where he’d spend the remainder of his coaching career as the football, baseball and soccer coach.

“It wasn’t even a job,” Wagner said. “I enjoyed going into work every single day; it was a very rewarding experience.”

Wagner coached football for 20 years, posting a 105-73 record, and won four division championships.

He was selected Macomb County Coach of the Year in 1994 after going 9-0 and winning the Macomb Area Conference-Red title. Wagner also served as Ford’s athletic director for eight years.

“I had a lot of my players emailing me and texting me, and some even went to the induction, as well,” Wagner said. “That was really special.”


Dean Tremonti

Tremonti was the master of consistency during his tenure at Shelby Junior High.

During his 33 years at the school, he posted a winning record in football, boys and girls basketball, and softball.

He tallied a 309-219 record in his 32 seasons as the boys basketball coach and added a 73-54 record in his 11 years as the girls basketball coach.

In 24 seasons as the softball coach, his second-longest tenured sport, Tremonti held a 171-115 record while also posting a 91-50 record in his 23 seasons as the football coach.

Tremonti said his early years of coaching basketball at Clinton Valley Middle School and junior varsity football at Chippewa Valley High School were a vital part of his journey.

“Those early coaching experiences were really important to me,” Tremonti said. “That beginning was the most important part of my coaching career.”


Gary Rojeski

Rojeski, who passed away in 2017 at the age of 69, will always be remembered as the man who brought football to Utica Henry Ford II High School.

“He never described to me what it was like to be the first football coach at Ford, but I believe he definitely took pride in it,” Chad Rojeski, Gary’s son, said. “My brothers and I were taught at an early age to take pride in anything you do.”

“In fact, we had a family lawn service growing up, Rojo & Sons Lawn Maintenance, and right on the business card it stated, ‘Where family pride goes into every job.’”

Ford held its first season in 1973 with Rojeski at the helm, and he immediately established a winning culture, claiming the Oakland A division championships in 1973 and 1978.

He led Ford to seven winning seasons in his nine years as head coach and compiled a 101-55-1 record in 17 years as the varsity and junior varsity coach at Ford.

Rojeski later coached football at his alma-mater, Utica High School, tallying a 48-41 record.


Tom Lerch

Serving today as the voice of Eisenhower High School and Utica High School sports, Lerch has been calling high school sports since 2001.

Lerch began announcing Eisenhower’s basketball and football games in 2001, and then added Utica’s cheerleading, basketball, football, soccer and track beginning in 2004.

With more than 1,200 games to his résumé, he’s been a focal point of the sports communities at Eisenhower and Utica.

Lerch said his opportunity to announce his son’s basketball games at Utica was one of his most memorable times. “It gave me that ringside seat to be a part of his life and that athletic part of his life,” Lerch said.


Tom McDonald

A perennial winner in his 32 years as head coach of Utica High School’s girls basketball team, McDonald became the third Macomb County coach to win a state title in 1999.

McDonald said his championship-winning team is one of his most memorable moments coaching basketball.

“We had a special group in the late ’90s, and we won the Class A championship in 1999, and obviously that stands out from a basketball standpoint,” McDonald said.

Utica just this past year went 16-6 and won a district championship before losing in the regional semifinals.

McDonald will return next year as he continues his legacy at Utica High School.


Tom Stockton

It was a history-making induction for Stockton, as he became the first bowling coach to be honored in the Macomb County Coaches Hall of Fame.

Stockton started the bowling team at Sterling Heights Stevenson in 1997, and he won his first state championship with the girls in 2001 and boys in 2005.

Stockton said the 2009 season served as an especially memorable year.

“The 2009 year really sticks out because it was a double championship year,” Stockton said. “Both the boys and girls won on the same day in the same building.”

Inducted to the Michigan High School Hall of Fame in 2020, Stockton has served on the Michigan High School Interscholastic Bowling Coaches Association board of directors since 2002 and was inducted into the MHSIBCA Hall of Fame in 2008.

He’s earned eight Macomb Area Conference Coach of the Year awards.